LAS VEGAS (AP) — Caesars Entertainment Corp. chief executive Gary Loveman announced Wednesday he will hand the reigns of the casino-hotel empire to former Hertz rental car CEO Mark Frissora, effective July 1.
Loveman will remain chairman of Caesars Entertainment and its Caesars Entertainment Operating Co. subsidiary, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection three weeks ago and has owned and operated most of Caesars' 50 casino-hotel properties worldwide, the company said in a statement. Caesars' properties include Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Bally's, the Cromwell and the Linq on the Las Vegas Strip.
The departure was characterized as being Loveman's decision. He said in the statement that the timing was right to transition to new management.
Loveman first suggested leaving last summer, saying he was getting tired, and he broached the possibility with the company's board of directors, which searched for a replacement and found Frissora, said Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson.
Loveman has been CEO of Caesars since 1998, when it was known as Harrah's Entertainment. He arrived at the company as a Harvard University business professor.
"It is a little bit odd that it's not a casino company manager stepping in," said Fitch Ratings analyst Alex Bumazhny, but he noted Loveman's background as a university professor meant he wasn't exactly "your stereotypical casino CEO" either.
Bumazhny said that a lot of what Loveman put into place, particularly growing the company's Total Rewards program and increasing efficiencies, is already institutionalized and isn't likely to be shaken by his departure.
Frissora was most recently chairman and CEO of Hertz Global Holdings Inc. before stepping down in September for personal reasons. Hertz has been reviewing its financial reports for the past three years and restating results.
Caesars' announcement credited Frissora with expanding the company and leading the acquisition of another rental-car company Dollar Thrifty. Before joining Hertz in 2006, Frissora was chairman and CEO of automotive part manufacturer Tenneco.
The company's statement pointed to Frissora's experience with complex and highly leveraged companies, two descriptions that have been used to describe Caesars as well.
The sale of Harrah's Entertainment to two private equity firms in 2008 left the company saddled with debt, eventually leading to the bankruptcy of a division weighed down by the most debt — some $18.4 billion. In the company's statement, Loveman said he would still oversee the restructuring of Caesars Entertainment Operating Co. The company has been brokering a plan with its creditors to shave $10 billion from the company's debt while filing for bankruptcy protection.
Caesars Entertainment's stock rose 1 cent to close Wednesday at $11.29.